The event, which was attended by over 100 delegates, was calling on all governments, development partners and stakeholders in all countries to take meaningful action to support Universal Eye Health coverage by 2020.


Sponsored by Henry Smith MP, Specsavers Optical Group and Vision for Life Essilor, on Tuesday 20th March 2018, Vision Aid Overseas hosted a call to action event on universal eye health at the House of Commons, London. The event was attended by over 100 delegates including; corporations, funders, the Ghanaian High Commission, other international development charities, MP’s, and was calling on all governments, development partners and stakeholders in all countries to take meaningful action to support Universal Eye Health coverage by 2020.

 

Nicola Chevis, CEO of Vision Aid Overseas said;

Recently in Ghana, on an outreach clinic into local communities, with optometrists from the University in Kumasi, what really struck me was the dire need for services just a few miles from the town. There were more people than we could practically see, and it was clear that visual impairment affects everyone in the community; from the schoolteacher to the pupil, to the farmer, the taxi driver, the kente cloth weaver, the market traders, even the local chief and politician.

 

Speakers on the night included, Professor Rupert Bourne from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’ (IAPB) Vision Loss Expert Group, Nicola Chevis from Vision Aid Overseas, Chipo Mweemba, a Zambian Optometrist trained by Vision Aid Overseas, and Professor Kovin Naidoo from the Our Children’s Vision Campaign (OCV).

The night commenced with a presentation from Professor Rupert Bourne who spoke of the looming crisis; as the world’s population grows and ages, the need for eye tests and spectacles increases.

 

Rupert explained;

More than 1.1 billion people cannot see to read and simply need reading glasses. Until recently this massive unmet need has mostly been neglected. These observations highlight the need to respond to the WHO's Global Action Plan by scaling up of our current efforts at global, regional, and country levels, to eliminate the burden of unnecessary blindness and vision impairment.

 

 

Following the inclusion of the need to tackle vision impairment at the Service of Celebration for Commonwealth Day on 12th March 2018, which was then followed by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trusts’ launch of the Vision Catalyst Fund to raise $1bn to bring “eye care to all” in Commonwealth countries a few days later, Nicola Chevis continued;

 Vision Aid Overseas is already reaching out to other non-eye care organisations to leverage programmes in education, to integrate eye health into other areas of health, and to explore social enterprise development for Vision Centres to increase the impact of our work.

The evening continued with a talk from Zambian Optometrists, Chipo Mweemba, a graduate in Optometry at Chainama College of Health Sciences in Lusaka, Zambia who spoke of the urgent need to train more eye care workers across the developing world.

 

Chipo explained;

Five years ago, we only had two Zambian optometrists practicing in the entire country. That changed soon after Chainama College of Health Sciences introduced the optometry course with Vision Aid Overseas being the core advocate and sponsor of the programme. From 2013 to date Chainama College has graduated 52 optometrists with diplomas in the field.

 

Chipo continued;

As we are gathered here today, I would like to say that it can take just hours to change someone’s life who is living in a very remote area of Zambia.  I have been privileged to see this happen first-hand; when someone walks into the clinic with all hope gone and they walk out smiling with their life restored simply because they can see clearly.

The evening ended with a presentation from Professor Kovin Naidoo, representing over 70 organisations who are members of the Our Children’s Vision Campaign. A campaign advocating to screen 50 million children worldwide by 2020.

 

Kovin told us;  

We’ve targeted to reach 50 million children by the year 2020, the numbers are really to govern support and get people involved but, it goes beyond just the numbers. It’s about creating powerful partnerships, driving awareness of child eye health particularly Uncorrected Refractive Error, utilising local knowledge, advocating for policy change, public health education and health promotion.

 

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